Are You A ‘Teacher Writer’ Or A ‘Writer Teacher’ And Why Does It Matter?

Building A Community Of Writer-Teachers

As some of you may know, we have recently set up a @WritingRocks_17 twitter account. One of its aims is to build of a community of writer-teachers.

  • In our recent poll, only 37% of our readers considered themselves ‘writer teachers’.
  • Over 50% stated they were teachers that happen to teach writing.

The truth is though that actually all teachers are writers – we write often! Some might argue we write too often – about things that don’t really matter – but that’s another blogpost! Perhaps then, as Teresa Cremin (2017) points out, we need to move away from writing being seen as some kind of ‘quasi-romantic’ practice to actually one that many of us can and do excel at!

As studies indicate (Peel, 2000, Yeo, 2007) and Teresa’s article here shows, many teachers who are passionate about the teaching of English come to it through a passion for reading – not writing. This has a considerable impact on classroom practice with reading often profiled over writing.

Our @WritingRocks_17 community is looking to help raise writing up to the same level as reading. Incidentally, @ReadingRocks_17 does a great job of raising the profile of the reading-for-pleasure pedagogy.

Another poll we undertook on Twitter showed that teachers overwhelmingly wanted to become a more effective ‘writer-teachers’ and so this is where we will begin.

Let’s talk about the difference between a ‘writer-teacher’ and a ‘teacher-writer’ because the difference is a profound one.

What Is A ‘Writer-Teacher’?

As Frank Smith (1988) puts it, ‘Teachers who are not themselves members of the club cannot admit children to it’.

Writer-teachers write for and with the children in their class as well as for themselves. They do this for the children’s and for their own benefit. Research has shown, being a writer-teacher is a seriously powerful teaching tool.  If you, and we, can become a community of writer-teachers, our identities and understanding of the writing process will change for our young writers benefit.

Why So Important?

‘The main requirements are easily stated. We, as teachers, must provide an environment in which a child will want to write and in which a child can learn about writing. The environment in which a child will want to write is an environment of demonstrations, not just of ‘this is the way we do things’ but also ‘these are things that can be done.’ (Frank Smith, 1988, p.201)

The most effective way of improving children’s writing outcomes is for them to have teachers who are able to teach about the writing process. Teachers who can give good, honest general advice about how to approach the different aspects of the writing process produce the best writers. Goouch et al (2009) and Cremin & Baker (2010) have also shown the young writers who have writer-teachers as their teachers are able to settle more quickly, remain focused for longer and are as similarly engaged in writing as their teacher. Research has also shown children who have writing-teachers are more motivate to write and heightened levels of intrinsic motivation have been found to characterise exceptional achievers in writing (Garrett & Moltzen, 2011).

It would be unheard of for a piano teacher, a ceramicist, or an artist working with water colours to teach someone their craft without practising it themselves. – Donald Graves

What Is A ‘Teacher-Writer’?

According to our recent poll, over 50% of teachers said they were ‘teacher-writers’. Teachers who happen to teach writing. When these teachers do write, it is often for school-work reasons (often the producing of examplar texts for work). These texts are often products for the system as they will inevitably include certain grammatical and linguistic features that the writer may not have wanted to include – had they been writing the piece for themselves – for pleasure.

(Cremin & Baker, 2010, p.20)

Writer-teachers do this too of course. They will write products for school-work but they also engage in the writing process just for themselves. For inter and intrapersonal reasons. These teachers are the ones who are able to better understand what their pupils are going through when they negotiate the difficult (but hugely rewarding) task that is writing. They can share this ‘writers-life’ advice with their children quickly and regularly. We know that it is this type of teaching of writing that is the most effective in terms of improving children’s writing outcomes too – see here.

Watch this video to meet the master ‘writer-teacher’ Donald Graves talking about his life as a writer-teacher:

What Does A Writer-Teacher Look Like?

To be an authentic model of the ‘writers-life’, teachers need to do much more than model the act of composition. Just as it is with the reading-for-pleasure pedagogy, you need to do much more than just read books yourself to show children how to become life-long readers. Teresa Cremin, in her book Writing Voice: Creating Communities Of Writers, states that writer-teachers are teachers who do the following things:

  • Authentically demonstrate their writing process and their writing products with their class and be open to sharing their strategies,
  • Are engaged readers; always looking to magpie: words, lines, sentences, characters, plots, settings, poetic moments from their reading for their own writing.
  • Are engaged in the world – looking for things to: describe, be critical of, explain, or to debate.
  • Work on class compositions,
  • Give genuine writing advice through Pupil-Conferencing whilst children write,
  • Write alongside the children in the class when they can,
  • Publish their own and children’s work into the class-library,
  • Write in their everyday lives. They try to live the ‘writer-life’,
  • They have their very own Writing Process which they can discuss and share with their pupils.

To live the writer-life, these teachers will often have writing notebooks at school and at home. In them they will scribble down potential writing moments. Over time, they will write down vocabulary or lines from books to use later. They will write inspired by poems, they will write memoirs about their childhood to share with their class – to entertain them or to make them reflect.

What Does My ‘Writer-Teacher’ Process Look Like?

I now have a fairly established writer-life. I tend to generate ideas when I’m out and about. I’ll notice something or have something happen to me that I know will be a good moment to expand on in a written piece. I’ve taught the children that these are what are called ‘pebble moments’.

Pebble moments are when you write about a single thing really well as opposed to writing about a ‘whole beach of ideas’. It’s really about writing specifically rather than generally about a topic. So instead of writing about swimming – write about the swim you took on Brighton beach on Christmas Day. It’s about having that mentality and watching out for little moments that people might relate to and connect with.

I tend to collect these ‘pebble moments’ on my phone. They then get written in the back of my writing journal which is on my writers desk when I get home. I do take my writing-journal into school from time to time to share and to write with the children. I also tend to plan and box-up my writing by hand in my journal. However, I often then transfer to the computer when I want to draft a piece. I’ll then print it out and stick it in my writing journal. Once in my journal, I might still play round with it. If it is any good, I’ll read it to the children or make it an exemplar text for one of our Genre topics.

I’m not a very confident writer and as a result I will often use the tools I’ve created for the children in my class! I don’t know if it is embarrassing to say but I use my own Genre-Booklets that I’ve created for the children and will stick to them quite closely. I’ll use the Boxing Up sheet too to plan my writing. I will then try out some of the Revision Tips the children use to improve their writing. Finally, I’ll proof read it using the Editing Checklist I’ve created for the children in my class. I guess I do this because I find it all a good support but I also get the added benefit of putting the materials ‘under stress’ to see if they work well – and if I can an improvement can be made to the booklets, I’ll make it.

The Writing Processes The Children In My Class Have Identified

  1. The Vomitters

The most popular writing process. These children like to get their ideas down on paper and spend most of their time revising it and getting it ‘reader ready’ through proof reading and publishing.

2. The Paragraph Pilers

The second most popular process. These children like to vomit a paragraph, clean it up by revising it and editing it before they move on to the next part in their writing.

3. Sentence Stackers

The least popular process. These are children who vomit a sentence and attend to the transcription immediately afterwards.

Interestingly, there are also The Planners and The Discoverers. These are children who either plan their writing to the absolute detail before going on to draft or else I have The Discoverers who resist planning as much as possible and like to see where their writing will take them (often with varying success).

The Seven Things Writer-Teachers Do:

  1. Have the self-esteem to believe they have something to say.
  2. Can mine their lives for writing ideas.
  3. Have built or are building a love affair with writing and language.
  4. Reading and writing become interlocked in trying to make sense of the world and to communicate ideas, thoughts, reactions and memories.
  5. Bring their writing and their writing process into the classroom to share.
  6. Become more closely observant of: life’s events, things that happened to them, things that are said and their environment. They are aware, sensitive and responsive – always looking for potential writing ideas and noting them down.
  7. Explore how authors put their work together and ‘magpie’ from them for their own writing.

If you’d like to read more about how the children approach The Writing Process independently in my class, you can go here.

If you would like to receive updates from our blog, you can click the follow button in the top right-hand-corner of the page. Alternatively, you can follow us on twitter at @lit4pleasure

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are informed by educational research but may not represent our employer.**

Teachers As ‘Teacher-Writers’: Living The Writer’s Life

  • Atwell, N., (2015), In the middle USA: Heinemann
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Cremin, T., (2011) Writing Voices: Creating Communities Of Writers London: Routledge
  • Cremin, T., Baker, S., (2010) Exploring teacher-writer identities in the classroom:conceptualising the struggle. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 9(3):8-25
  • Cremin, T., Locke, T., (2017) Writer Identity & The Teaching & Leanring Of Writing London: Routledge
  • Garrett, L., & Moltzen, R., (2011) Writing because I want to, not because I have to: Young gifted writers’ perspectives on the factors that “matter” in developing expertise In English Teaching: Practice and Critique Vol.10(1) p.165-180
  • Graves, D., (2003), 20th Ed, Writing: Teachers & Children At Work USA: Heinemann
  • Goouch, K., Cremin, T., Lambirth, A., (2009) Writing Is Primary: Final research report.London: Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
  • Loane, G., (2017) Developing Young Writers In The Classroom London: Routledge
  • Peel, R., (2000) Beliefs about ‘English’ in England In Questions of English, Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric & the Formation o the Subject in England, Australia and the United States 116-88 London: Routledge
  • Smith, F., (1982) Writing And The Writer HEB: New York
  • Smith, F., (1988) Joining the literacy club Heinemann: Oxford
  • Yeo (2007) New literacies, alternative texts: Teachers conceptions of composition and literacy  In English Teaching: Practice and critique, 6(1):113-31

Children’s ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

As part of this blog post, my class and I decided to put together a guide to reading for pleasure. The children came up with roughly 30 rights. I’ve decided to categorise them as I think it makes for more interesting interpretation. Take a look and see what you think. You can also read our ‘Year 5 Rights Of A Child Writerhere.

*Please note these are the views of the children and may not represent the views of our employer.*

The Year 5 ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

The role of the teacher:

  1. The right to a teacher who reads.
  2. The right to read to a teacher.
  3. The right to have a class-book read to you.

The classroom environment:

  1. The right to start your day reading.
  2. The right to a class library.

Type of books:

  1. The right to only read books you enjoy.
  2. The right to read non-fiction, poetry, pictures books, magazines, comics and newspapers.
  3. The right not to use colour-coded books (if you don’t want to).
  4. The right to choose your own level of reading (if you want to).
  5. The right to take a book home to read.
  6. The right to bring your own books in to school.

Types of reading:

  1. The right to take a break from a large book.
  2. The right to read out loud.
  3. The right to mistake a book for your life and get lost in it.
  4. The right to take your time reading.
  5. The right to read a book again.
  6. The right to act out the books you’re reading.
  7. The right to have MEGA DEAR*.
  8. The right to read at home.

Reviewing & talking about books:

  1. The right to book talks.
  2. The right to blog book reviews.
  3. The right to recommend books.
  4. The right to lend your books to the class library.
  5. The right to drop a book.
  6. The right to read and discuss Shakespeare.
  7. The right to rate a book no matter what other people think.

The reader in the writer:

  1. The right to read your class mates’ published writing and talk about it together.
  2. The right to magpie books for your own writing.

*MEGA DEAR is where children are afforded an opportunity to take reading books, play-scripts, poetry and their own writing into a larger space. Here they are allowed to perform poetry for each other, act out stories, myths or fairy-tales, have book talks, draw characters and settings, make comic strips and read and/or write together. 

What The EEF’s ‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two’ Report Tells Us About Teaching Writing Effectively.

What The Education Endowment Fund’s ‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two‘ Report Tells Us About Teaching Writing Effectively. 

Here is a brief outline of the key messages from the Education Endowment Fund’s summary on effective writing at Key Stage Two. The summary produced by the EEF uses a number of meta-analysis based research papers to draw its conclusions. It says:

Reading For Writing

  • Children listening to texts being read aloud is important to both reading and writing development.
  • Children being given time to discuss the books they are reading with others is valuable.
  • Children should have freely available a wide-range of texts to read from.

Teaching The Writing Process

  1. The writing process should be explicitly taught using the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ otherwise known as the ‘repeated practice’ or ‘self-regulated strategy instruction’ model.
  2. Children need regular practice at writing and the writing process to become successful!
  3. To achieve this level of practice children need to be kept motivated and fully engaged in wanting to improve their writing.
  4. Teachers need to be on hand, providing feedback to help pupils focus their effort appropriately.
  5. Schools should focus first on developing core classroom teaching strategies that improve the literacy capabilities of the whole class. With this in place, the need for additional support should decrease.

Teaching Through Genre Topics

Generating Ideas And Planning

  • Children talking through their text with a partner before and during their writing will improve writing outcomes.

Vomit Drafting

  1. Although accurate spelling, grammar and handwriting are important, at this stage they are not the main focus. If these aspects mistakenly become the focus at the drafting stage,  writing becomes slow and effortful and therefore hinders progress in writing composition.
  2. Encouraging children to continuously re-read their texts as they write them can improve writing outcomes.

Revision & Editing

  • Revising should be encouraged and ‘it should be accepted that work may become messy but that at this stage the audience will be limited’. 
  • When editing, spelling and grammar assume greater importance, pupils will need to recognise that their work will need to be accurate if readers are to engage with it and extract the intended information from it.


**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**


Education Endowment Fund (2017) Improving Literacy In Key Stage Two EEF: London

Creating A Community Of Readers: A Reading For Pleasure Article

This article is based on, and written in relation to, findings of educational research (Cremin, 2008, Pieper & Beadle, 2016 & Miller & Anderson, 2009). The tenor of this article is to allow the reader to reflect on children’s reading and is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

If you’ve ever felt a pang of disappointment that some (and maybe even many) of the children in your class are not turning to books with enthusiasm and engagement, despite your best efforts at providing book-weeks, author events, booktalk sessions and a selection of ‘good’ titles in your class library, then I urge you to read on now.

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference in Cambridge on the subject of children reading for pleasure. One of the keynote speakers was Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (literacy) at the Open University. She is also one of the co-authors of the book ‘Building Communities of Engaged Readers’. In a recent post on this website, my colleague and I described aspects of a school-based practice which we believe can encourage and maintain a classroom culture of ‘reading for pleasure‘. As someone who, like many others, has always read for pleasure, I am a passionate advocate for helping all children to experience the gains and satisfactions of such a brilliant resource. Since reading the book and attending the conference, I realise that,  while our own practice is very much affirmed by current thinking about reading for pleasure, there is still more to consider and act upon than I have been aware of.

National Curriculum And Reading

In 2013, the National Curriculum (for the first time in its history) required that children be taught to develop pleasure in reading. Although ‘enticed’ or ‘invited’ would have been better word choices than ‘taught’, this requirement was and is encouraging, since it established that reading for pleasure was no longer to be viewed simply as a desirable spin-off from reading instruction, a kind of optional extra. What was the rationale behind this official foregrounding of a hitherto ignored aspect of reading?

What Does The Research Say?

Research has shown that reading for pleasure – the desire and the will to read – carries significant personal and affective benefits for a child reader in terms of, for example:

  • fostering empathy,
  • engaging the emotions,
  • expanding the imagination,
  • providing the means of a temporary escape,
  • widening knowledge,
  • helping the child  negotiate an identity and a place in the world (Alexander, 2010).

These are arguably benefits for society in general. There are academic gains too. Children who read with engagement will read more, will absorb models for writing, develop a wider vocabulary and show improvements in spelling. (Sullivan and Brown, 2013; Cox and Guthrie, 2001.) However, research has also shown there to have been a definite decline in reading for pleasure in recent years among both primary and secondary aged children (Twist et al, 2012). This, as the book’s authors rightly say, is a cause for national (and international) concern. Something isn’t working in schools.

What I want to do in this article is to outline a primary school project set up by UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) a few years ago, from which grew a distinct Reading for Pleasure pedagogy, and then to list some practical strategies which form part of this pedagogy.  The project, Teachers As Readers, aimed firstly to survey the participating teachers’ knowledge and use of children’s literature in the classroom and to find ways of enhancing this knowledge and its implementation. The most striking part of the project was the focus on the concept of  Reading Teachers, defined as ‘teachers who read and readers who teach’ (Commeyras, Bisplinghoff and Olson, 2003).

The Most Important Paragraph Of All

Developing as a Reading Teacher fundamentally involves  having a deep knowledge of yourself as a reader and of your own reading history, a commitment to reading children’s literature, together with knowing the children in your class as readers, knowing their informal reading practices both in and out of school, and acknowledging the diversity in what, how, and how much they choose to read. What is so exciting and innovative (and so connected to being human) about this concept is that, as the project showed, new and highly productive relationships between teachers and children can be forged from it, which impact positively on children’s attitudes to and pleasure in reading. If teachers are willing to position themselves as fellow-readers, share their own reading histories and experiences, and invite the children to share their everyday encounters with reading and their perceptions of themselves as readers, then it is possible for a truly reciprocal relationship to emerge, and a reciprocal reading community to be created where reading is seen as a pleasurable social practice, and talking about reading becomes endemic to the life of the classroom.

(I take this opportunity to mention that my colleague and I have been concentrating on creating a similarly reciprocal community of writers in our classroom, through everyone sharing and developing their own writing processes as part of on-going  writer to  writer conversations.)

Children Choosing Books To Read

The book shows how it is possible to translate the National Curriculum requirement into a thoughtful and sympathetic Reading for Pleasure pedagogy. The teacher’s identity shift from ‘arbiter’ of reading to Reading Teacher allows other transformations to take place. For example, knowing children’s reading preferences both in and out of school and then using this knowledge to provide a wide range of different kinds of texts in class or school libraries means that teachers are validating and respecting children’s reading choices. Children can then maybe be given the agency to be self-selectors of their own independent reading. Potentially schools might want to consider the possibility of dispensing with the practice of colour-coding children’s books (at least in class libraries). Though we appreciate that some schools also find colour-codes useful. Potentially though, children may very quickly learn to do what they need to do – be autonomously discriminating in their own choices. We only suggest this as a potential practice because the authors refer to studies (Krashen (1993), Sanacore (1999) & Gambrell,1996) which show that self-selection enhances motivation as readers, and point out that agency and motivation are crucial in fostering reading for pleasure. Of course, children would likely need advice and recommendations from their teachers. In terms of us, we can only say that our children see us as Reading Teachers; they trust us and will at least try out suggested texts that we pick out for them to try.

The question of agency and independence has implications for writing too. Allowing children to choose their own topics both increases motivation and makes clear links between reading and writing, since children will often draw on their personal reading to generate ideas for written pieces.  In our class, we tried out the use of ‘Writing Tricks Books’, in which the children could ‘magpie’ from their reading: words, phrases, and figurative language which might be helpful in describing settings or building up characters in their own writing. This has been interesting but a lot more work would be required to see what kind of benefits it has for the children’s writing outcomes.

Children Talking About Books!

One of the most important and transformative outcomes of the pedagogy to impact on reading for pleasure is the emergence, described in the book, of ‘inside-text talk’. During the project, the researchers observed apparently naturally occurring, ‘close’ conversations about reading which were taking place anywhere, any time, essentially informal, child-led, inclusive, and different from, though complementary to, the more engineered and  teacher-led ‘booktalk’ sessions which are often the only classroom discussions about reading. Rich examples of this kind of talk are given in the book. The project-teachers observed that when inside-text talk was going on, children were asking more questions, and that the questions were ‘more probing, demanding much more than simple recall of facts.  Teachers also saw the value of talk for the authentic assessment of reading, and for the ways in which it could facilitate collective and individual meaning-making.

If book talk is a core element of a community of readers, so is the social practice of a teacher reading aloud to the class – sharing poems, picture books, short stories and whole novels. Far from being simply a pleasant way to finish the day or the week, reading aloud is seen as a significant pedagogical activity with strong contributions to make to a climate of reading for pleasure. Through being read to regularly, children’s knowledge of what is out there to be enjoyed widens. If it is read well, they will absorb the shapes, language, sounds and rhythms of the text. However, while this has obvious implications for writing, the study made it clear that it is essential that children understand that hearing a text read aloud has pleasure at its heart, and that the text is not being used as a tool for another, narrower purpose, such as the teaching of grammar or as a future writing assignment. One of the project teachers had this to say, and you can hear the feeling of liberation in her words:

‘I now read to the class without thinking ‘I could do this with it or I could do that with it’ and I think the children sit back and think ‘I can just enjoy this’…..that had been a big struggle – thinking how many boxes can I tick, what objectives can I cover and you actually then lose the impact of….the book. You know, just enjoy it for a book and a good story and a good emotional journey.’

As the authors acknowledge, there is more work to be done, particularly in the area of parental involvement. I have appended a few of the strategies relating to parents which the book refers to and which were discussed at the conference. Again, the emphasis is on establishing reciprocity in reader relationships between families, parents and schools. This seems exciting.

There can be no doubt, from reading the studies, that implementing a reading for pleasure pedagogy offers huge gains in terms of creating communities of interested, engaged and enthusiastic readers. I conclude with a final word about test scores. In one of the project schools, teachers reported that over the academic year every child showed improvement in reading, and the scores of more than 50% of the children in the the two classes increased by three sub-levels or more. The following list of strategies and practices related to the pedagogy can be implemented in any classroom if teachers are personally and professionally committed to careful, systematic and consistent planning.

Which Ones Do You Think You Do?

  1. Widen your own reading of children’s literature; consult published booklists and review magazines.
  2. Allow more daily DEAR time.
  3. Have a class library with a wide range of texts.
  4. Allow the free passage of home texts to school and school texts being allowed to go home.
  5. Have child-led booklists of recommendations, and book displays with clear star ratings.
  6. Share book reviews with other schools.
  7. Connect with the local library.
  8. Read aloud on a regular basis.
  9. Ask children to write regular ‘reading letters’ to the teacher in their home-school reading record books. These require a brief answer.
  10. Have Daniel Pennac’s ‘Rights of the Reader’ understood and displayed in the classroom.
  11. Keep a record of children’s reading choices.
  12. Invite teachers, children and parents to create a personal River of Reading collage. Draw, stick on/write about anything you have read over a long or short period of time. Share in class.
  13. Invite parents into the school or class library at the end of the day, to chat or read with children. Value their personal contributions without making them feel intimidated! This could develop into a reading club or group.

If you would like to receive updates from our blog, you can click the follow button in the top right-hand-corner of the page. Alternatively, you can follow us on twitter at @lit4pleasure

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**


  • Alexander, R., (2010) Children, Their World & Their Education London:Routledge
  • Commeyras, M., Bisplinghoff, B.S., Olson, J., (2003) Teachers as Readers: Perspectives on the importance of reading in teachers’ classrooms and lives Newwark, NJ: International Reading Association
  • Cox. K., Guthrie, J.T., (2001) Motivational and cognitive contributions to students amount of reading In Contemporary educational psychology 26(1), 116-131
  • Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S., Safford, K., (2014) Building Communities Of Engaged Readers London: Routledge
    • Gambrell, L., (1996) Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation In The Reading Teacher 50, 14-
  • Krashen, S., (2004) The power of reading: insights from research Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
  • Sanacore, J., (1999) Encouraging children to make choices about their literacy learning In Intervention in school and clinic 35, 38-42
  • Sullivan, A., Brown, M., (2013) Social inequalities in cognitive sores arge 16: The role of reading In CLS Working Paper London: Centre for longitudinal studies
  • Twist, L., Sizmur, J., Barrlett, S., Lynn, L., (2012) PIRLS 2011 Reading Achievement in England Research Brief London: DFE

What Is Writing? Why Do We Write?

Language merely reflects our way of trying to make sense of the world.

– Frank Smith

Writing is the meeting point of experiences, language and society. It is intimately bound up in an individual’s intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual growth. Such patterns are complex draw on several disciplines (including psychology and sociology) (John Dixon, p.85)

Teachers all have different philosophies on what constitutes writing and therefore will respond differently to: children’s writing, organising instruction and representing children’s development accordingly. Here are some common and influential views on what writing is and why we do it.

  1. Frank Smith (1982) says ‘writing touches every part of our lives‘.
  • One of the first reasons we write is because it is a tool for communication in culture. It gives us the ability to share information over time and space with multiple individuals (explaining, recounting & opinion).
  • It can also be used as a permanent record or as a statement e.g. in history, geography  & science genres.
  • The third cultural aspect for writing is artistry (narrative and poetry).
  • Finally, there is also the personal aspect to writing. Writing allows us all to reflect, express our perceptions of self, to socially dream or to be critical (memoir, diary, recount).

By writing, we find out what we know; what we think. Writing is an extremely efficient way of gaining access to that knowledge that we cannot explore directly. – Frank Smith (1982, p.33)

  1. Ivanic, in Writing & Identity (1998), states that writing is related to:
  • Writing about yourself (for yourself and others),
  • Writing so as to position yourself within an audience,
  • Writing just for yourself,
  • Realising who you are through writing.
  1. Gee (2004) points out that, in literacy, what is important is not merely language, and surely not grammar, but writing the ‘doing-being-valuing-believing combinations‘ which he called discourses. Discourses are the rules and standards of reason that organise:
  • Perceptions,
  • Ways of responding to the world,
  • The conceptions of ‘self, “

4. Kress (1997) & Dyson (1993, 2003) include representations such as:

  • Drawing,
  • Oral storytelling,
  • Model making,

An approach described as the “multimodal perspective”. Children come to writing and composing using an ensemble of resources that they then combine in written and oral forms.

5. Ruth Finnegan (1986, 2002) has looked at communication of all kinds, drawing on the broader conceptions of literacy and language of a variety of cultural groups and thereby questioning dominant literacy and linguistic cultural assumptions.

6. Ingold (2007) has taken writing quite out of the realm of schooled literacies by widening out the lens to things like:

  • Explorations,
  • Looking at lines,
  • Music notation and other entangled forms of inscription.

Included within that was writing within the tangled knitting on boats, within treaded lines on a footpath and within map making and drawn images.

7. Digital Literacy is communicating in digital environments. Digital literacy can include: technical-procedural, cognitive and emotional-social skills. For example:

  • Using a computer program as procedural skill (handling files and editing visuals) and cognitive skills (the ability to read visual messages like GIFs and emojis).
  • Data retrieval on the Internet (working with search engines, evaluating data, sorting out false and biased data, and distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant data).
  • Effective communication on social media platforms and blogs is conceived of as requiring the utilisation of certain social and emotional skills within writing.

7. Fairclough (1989) talks about writing being a tool for the production, maintenance and change of social relations and of power. Writing contributes to the domination of some people by others. Teaching this, according to Fairclough, is the first step to emancipation.

8. Martin & Rose (2008) define writing as the negotiating of different types of ‘meaning’ realised through language and the ways in which these meanings are typically written. They are focused on the genres of writing and the patterns that can appear in them. Learning these patterns gives you access to different types of writing and therefore different opportunities.

The National Curriculum (2013) has this to say about writing:

  • Children write so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others.
  • Writing is developed through spoken language and reading.
  • Pupils who do not have opportunity to write fluently and confidently are effectively disenfranchised.
  • Pupils need to understand grammar and linguistic conventions for writing (2013:3)
  • It is essential that teaching develops pupils’ competence in the two dimensions (composition and transcription). In addition, pupils should be taught how to plan, revise and [edit] their writing (DfE, 2013:5).

If you have time, you may want to read our article: What If Almost Everything We Thought About The Teaching Of Writing Was Wrong?

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**


  • Dyson, A.H. (1993). Social worlds of children learning to write in an urban primary school. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Dyson, A.H. (2003). The brothers and sisters learn to write: Popular literacies in childhood and school cultures. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Finnegan, R. (1986). The oral and the written: Doing things with words in Africa. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Finnegan, R. (2002). Communication. London: Routledge.
  • Flairclough, N., (1989) Language & Power Longman Group: Essex
  • Gee, J. K. (2004) Situated Language and Learning London: Routledge
  • Ingold, T. (2007). Lines: A brief history. London: Routledge.
  • Ivanic, R., (1998) Writing & Identity Lonson: John Benjamins Publishing Company
  • Kress, G. (1997). Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. London: Routledge.
  • Martin & Rose (2008) Genre Relations London: Equinox
  • Smith, F., (1982) Writing And The Writer HEB: New York

The 29 Rights Of The Child Writer.

Daniel Pennac, in his book The Rights Of The Reader, created 10 rights for child readers and these can be viewed as a poster here.

In 2011, The National Writing project produced its own ten rights for writers which includes the following:

  1. The right not to share.
  2. The right to change things and cross things out.
  3. The right to write anywhere.
  4. The right to a trusted audience.
  5. The right to get lost in your writing and not know where you’re going.
  6. The right to throw things away.
  7. The right to take time to think.
  8. The right to borrow from other writers.
  9. The right to experiment and break rules.
  10. The right to work electronically, draw or use a pen and paper.

Jeni Smith helped write these rights and you can listen to her talk in the video below:

In my classroom, the children have changed a few of these and we’ve added a few of our own.

The 29 Rights Od The Child Writer

The role of the teacher:

  • The right to have a writer-teacher.
  • The right to be shown the ‘writing tricks‘ other authors use.
  • The right to a pupil-conference where you receive genuine writing advice from a writer-teacher; not a teacher-writer.

Home writing:

  • The right to a home/school writing journal.
  • The right to write anywhere.
  • The right to take writing to and from home.

Reader in the writer:

  • The right to magpie and borrow ideas from other writers.

What to write:

How to write:

  • The right to ‘box up’ and get your ideas together.
  • The right to move around the writing process – to write your own way.
  • The right to make mistakes, cross things out and change your mind.
  • The right to abandon free-writing pieces.
  • The right to take time to think, to be unsure and to write freely.
  • The right to get lost in our writing and not know where you’re going.
  • The right to experiment and take risks.

Sharing writing:

  • The right to be shy.
  • The right to give and receive ‘author talks’ from your peers.
  • The right to a supportive audience.

Getting your work ‘reader ready’:

My question now is – what would the rights be in your class? What have I missed? Do any of these seem unrealistic? Could you do the same activity with your class? Can we share what our classes come up with and try and create a @WritingRocks_17 list of writer’s rights together?

You can leave your rights as a comment below!

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**

Books That Change Writing-Teachers

@WritingRocks_17 we recently asked: What books on the subject of teaching writing have inspired you most? This is what our readers had to say. This is a cracking list so far!

On Writing

Frank Smith – Writing & The Writer

514kEBcQcBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Exploring the relationship between the writer and what he/she happens to be writing. An original examination of writing-as a craft and as a cognitive activity. It considers the necessary disciplines of writing, such as knowledge of the conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In particular, there is a concern with how the skills underlying all these aspects of writing are learned and orchestrated.

Learn To Write – Donald Murray


Learn To Write gives you a framework you can use to create original and compelling writing. Donald Murray, with his famous clear and succinct writing style, will show you how to move from an initial idea all the way to a final draft.

On Writing – Stephen King


Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through to his emergence as a writer.


Writing Home -Alan Bennett

downloadThis is a wonderfully entertaining collection of Alan Bennett’s prose writings. Writing Home brings together diaries, reminiscences and reviews to give us a unique and unforgettable portrait of one of England’s leading playwrights. Fantastic for any teachers who’d like to try memoir writing in their class.

Such Stuff: A Story Maker’s Inspiration – Michael Morpurgo

51uucyb5wPL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_This insightful collection is perfect for those who want to understand how writing works and where stories begin. Revealing essays from Michael about more than twenty of his most popular novels are combined with key extracts from his books.


10 Things Every Writer Needs To Know – Jeff Anderson


Jeff Anderson focuses on developing the concepts and application of ten essential aspects of good writing for students – motion, models, focus, detail, form, frames, cohesion, energy, words, and clutter.


The Way To Write – John Fairfax & John Moat

4184Y293KJL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_This is a practical guide, for beginners, people working at home on their own and students and teachers on writing courses. It explains how to go about evaluating work and then taking steps to improve it.

Why Did I Write – Marie Clay 

41CXQ1A95FL._SY415_BO1,204,203,200_Dr. Clays examines a child’s first attempts to write. By tracing patterns of development in actual examples of children’s work, she gives invaluable insights for those in a position to assist the learning process.


On The Writing Workshop

Donald Graves – Writing: Teachers & Writers At Work


Truly inspiring. If you were only to buy one book from this list, make it this one. The best book I’ve ever read on the teaching of writing and has changed the way I teach writing forever. You can read a tribute to Donald Graves here.

In The Middle – Nancie Atwell

9780325028132Nancie Atwell is one of the most highly respected educators in the U.S. and across the world. She is the winner of the Global Teacher Prize. This book has inspired generations of teachers and shares the innovations she uses to make the biggest impact on learning schoolwide. You can read about our UK version of this approach, called Real-World Literacy, here.

The Art Of Teaching Writing – Lucy Calkins

51ej-Nv-mbL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I saw writing as a process of choosing a topic, turning the topic into the best possible draft, sharing the draft with friends, then revising it. But I’ve come to think that it’s very important that writing is a process not only of recording, but also of developing a story or an idea – with something noticed or something wondered about. When writing begins with something that has not yet found its significance, it is more apt to become a process of growing meaning.-

How’s It Going – Carl Anderson


Meeting children where they are. A great way to give valuable feed-back to writers is through Pupil-Conferencing. We talk about its benefits here – and so does Carl Anderson in this fantastically practical book.


On Building A Writing-For-Pleasure Classroom

Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers – Teresa Cremin & Debra Myhill

51snZNvi6IL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The perspectives of children, teachers and professional writers are often absent in the pedagogy of writing. This book gives expression to these voices, making a new and significant contribution to understanding what it means to be a writer. Importantly, it discusses how to teach through a Writing-For-Pleasure pedagogy and how to be a Writer-Teacher.


The Reader/Writer Teacher’s Companion: Build A Literate Classroom – Donald Graves

41BHDHFXB5L._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_A complete and easy guide to setting up a class so that it supports children’s reading and writing for pleasure. Just a beautifully easy to read and implement book.


On The Connection Between Reading & Writing

The Reader in the Writer – Barrs & Cork

81fyN09fJFLA fantastic book which bridges the reading-for-pleasure pedagogy with learning to write. A must read for any @ReadingRocks_17 fans.



Authors As Mentors – Lucy Calkins


Again, another great book about how you can use children’s reading material to spark significant and worthwhile writing opportunities.


Opening Doors To Quality Writing – Bob Cox 

51aDjyKEM4L._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_This book puts the focus on pupils producing quality writing, developing their literacy skills and a love of reading in the process. It uses literary heritage texts as the stimulus for excellent learning.

50 Ways To Retell A Story: Cinderella – Alen Peat & Julie Peat


50 Ways To Retell A Story: Cinderella does exactly what it says on the cover – retells the favourite fairytale Cinderella – in fifty brand new ways! As a haiku, a recipe, a text message, a story written in ‘pig Latin,’ a diary entry, a ghost story and forty-four other innovative ways


On Writing Study Lessons

Lessons That Change Writers – Nancie Atwell


In this book, the focus is on Writing Study Lessons as a vehicle for helping students improve their writing. She shares over a hundred of these writing lessons which are described by her students as “the best of the best.”


The Bumper Book Of Story Telling Into Writing – Pie Corbett

512FPEPtwJL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Now made famous through the hugely successful Talk For Writing approach, this book encourages teachers to tell and for children to retell stories through gesture and other activities.


Write Out Of The Classroom – Colin Macfarlane

518FTiZS2LL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_This book provides teachers with great ways of tapping into the huge inspirational potential of the richly diverse world beyond the classroom walls.


On Poetry

Awakening The Heart – Georgia Herd


A beautifully elegant book, it shows you how you can create life-long poets in your classroom. Full of strategies for generating poetic ideas with your class and create an environment where poetry can shine everyday.


What Is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems – Michael Rosen


Over many years as a working poet, Michael Rosen has thought a great deal about what poems are, what they can do and the pleasure that comes from writing and reading poetry. In this invaluable handbook, he shares this knowledge and experience in book form for the very first time. Starting with a detailed analysis of a number of classic poems, he offers a real “writer’s guide” to writing and performing poems, as well as a wealth of technical information and tips. He then takes a fascinating look at a selection of his own poems and explains how and why he wrote them. I should say that this is completely suitable for children to read independently too.

Poetry In The Making – Ted Hughes

download (1)In a series of chapters built round poems by a number of writers including himself, Ted Hughes explores, colourfully and intensively, themes such as ‘Capturing Animals’, ‘Wind and Weather’ and ‘Writing about People’. The purpose throughout is to lead on, via a discussion of the poems (which he does with riveting skill) to some direct encouragement to the children to think and write for themselves. He makes the whole venture seem enjoyable, and somehow urgent.

Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry – Kenneth Koch

download (2)The classic, inspiring account of a poet’s experience teaching school children to write poetry. Koch describes his inventive methods for teaching these children how to create poems and gives numerous examples of their work.


On Identity

Decolonising the Mind – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

51KP2G0QRRL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_Ngugi describes this book as ‘a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction, theatre, criticism and in teaching of literature.


Translanguaging – Ofelia Garcia

41dJzA0kKQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Looking closely at what happens when translanguaging is actively taken up to teach emergent bilingual students across different contexts, this book focuses on how it is already happening in classrooms as well as how it can be implemented as a pedagogical orientation.


Functional Grammar Texts

Rediscover Grammar – David Crystal

511oP31htpL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Gives clear demonstration of how language structures link together, description of features and usage and cautions against easy mistakes. Updated to reflect developments in terminology following the National Curriculum and Key Stage 3 framework. This text was certainly useful when we created our Functional Grammar Table – see here.

Mechanically Inclined – Jeff Anderson

download (3)Some teachers love grammar and some hate it, but nearly all struggle to find ways of making the mechanics of English meaningful to kids. Jeff Anderson began researching and testing the ideas of scores of grammar experts in his classroom, gradually finding successful ways of integrating grammar instruction into writer’s workshop. Note: This was also a useful text when we were building our Functional Grammar Table – be mindful though that some grammar ‘rules’ used in the US do not reflect usage in the UK!


Big thank you to all who have contributed so far:           

If you think we have criminally left off a book which simply needs to be here – leave a comment below stating the book and why it should be here!

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**